90 thoughts on “This is a Good Book Thursday: The End (of January) is Nigh

  1. I highly recommend “Strange Practice” by Vivian Shaw. It is set in modern day London where Greta Helsing has followed in her father’s medical practice specializing in supernatural creatures like vampires, ghouls, mummies, etc. There’s a group of mad monks targeting her patients. I liked the creatures and the doctor’s character development.

    1. Sometimes I think writing destroys the ability to read widely. I just went to look at Strange Practice and started reading the first pages on Amazon. Loved her attention to detail, the damaged mini door, the ripped lining in the purse, the use of dialogue, great building of character, and then she got inside the house and looked in the mirror to describe herself, and I thought, “Amateur,” and then hit a block of infodump and stopped reading, which is incredibly dumb of me. So the author made some beginner errors, the rest could be great. I’ll go back to it, but I think I’m so hyper-critical now that I’m an impossible reader.

      For the record: Never, ever, ever have your character look in a mirror and describe her or himself. People do not do that. They look in mirrors, but they don’t think, “I have pale blonde hair and an impudent smile,” they think, “There’s a twig in my hair and a new wrinkle.” (The first one I made up, the last is from experience.) They notice what’s new, not what’s always been there. Almost as bad: having one character look at another and describe him or her in detail. Unless there’s a reason that character is taking inventory–police witness?–it’s rare that the impression another person makes is generally detailed, it’s usually the most significant things that hit first: braying laugh, bright red hair, stiff body posture, facial expressions, etc., the stuff we use to make character judgments, not to describe to the cops.

      Huh. I don’t know where that soapbox came from.

      ETA: Once she gets into the story, the action is good. A little talky and expository but hey, it’s the first pages. You gotta set up the story.

  2. I just finished Unraveling Oliver. It was unputdownable. It was told in first person from various points of views. The mystery unravels slowly, and I just couldn’t wait to find out everything Oliver had done. It was really good.

    Now I’m onto Cotillion by Georgette Heyer.

  3. I just read A Dangerous Invitation by Erica Monroe, the first from her Rookery Rogues series.

    IT IS SOOO GOOD. A historical romance with nary a duke or duchess in sight. Love amongst the criminal class. It had diverse secondary characters so it hit all my “MOAR NOW” buttons.

    Highly recommended.

    1. Sure Thing, I took you up on your recommendation of the Rookery Rogues series. It even has a glossary of terms A to almost Z for the time period. I love when I can get a series in a bundle and at a great price (.99 cents) but don’t you have to wonder when the bundle lists the page number at 472 and the individual books are over 300 each? Maybe it’s Amazon’s version of Reader’s Digest.

    2. It’s so good that I treated it like I did the Alisha Rai book, I stopped reading because I didn’t want it to end. I actually did not devour it in one sitting. It took two! 😀

      Yeah, I dunno what’s up with the pages. “Reader’s Digest” = snortlaugh.

      I didn’t know it was still on sale. BUY! BUY! BUY!

    1. Thank you! I’m recovering from a major surgery and am re-reading thing. I forgot about Bret Farr,

    2. That one is one of my favorites. I have all of her books, and then tried a mystery starring her, and it was …not what I had in mind.

      1. I saw those. How is it possible that the author just put her in a book as a fictional character? I understand anybody can get to Sherlock Holmes now, he’s fictional and out of copyright, but a real person who was still writing in the mid-twentieth century? That just looked bad to me.

  4. I’m re-reading one of the In Death novels, but apparently I’m highly distractible this week. Between a couple new episodes of This Old House and then Letterman’s new thing, I am way behind my usual reading pace. 🙂

  5. I’m rereading Georgette Heyer’s Inspector Hemmingway series. the 2nd book popped up on my Kindle so I started there.

  6. I finally got Jennifer Ashley’s historical mystery, Death Below Stairs, and I have some reservations (not the author’s fault, just some tropes that don’t work for me, like maternal angst), but it was good overall.

  7. Right now I’m re-reading Patricia Briggs Mercy Thompson books in no particular order. I recently read a couple of Jenny Colgan’s books. They’re modern romances that I enjoyed. Most of what I’m reading now are books for work since I’m starting my own business, so fiction needs to be light or stories I’ve read before to give my brain a break.

    1. I’m also reading the Patricia Briggs Mercy Thompson books! Based on a recent good books Thursday recommendation, I grabbed the 1-5 collection of the series from my library’s digital stacks – and have raced right through them. It was a good thing/bad thing: I’d be up reading at 2 am while nursing my 5 month old, and then be too hooked into the story to go back to bed once she fell asleep. (mostly a good thing, just a bit tired now!)

      just a really fun and well built world.

      So a thank you to whoever made the initial recommendation, and to Dayna as well for giving me the chance to second.
      And now I have purchased and am reading book 6…but probably not during the early morning feedings any more.

    2. I love the Mercy Thompson books. Someday I’m going to reread from the beginning.

      I’m reading Jenny Colgan’s new book, all the way from England (thank goodness for The Book Depository, which will mail books free anywhere in the world). I got hooked on her last year and have read almost everything she’s written. (I didn’t love some of her earlier ones, which were a little bit too “Bridget Jones” for me.)

    3. I want a “Me too” Mercy’s Garage Rosie the Riveter cashmere sweater! Not gonna happen, sigh. My were-self would just shred it in a “What! did he say?!” rage moment, anyway. Were-Women must dress in corduroy & denim, OK, & cashmere for freezie cats.

  8. I picked up In Calabria from the library. I haven’t started it yet, but I love Peter S. Beagle. I guess I am just anxious that I won’t love this one, or love it too much… Life is tough. Sigh.

  9. Seanan McGuire has a new novella out in her Wayward Children series which was great. Only trouble is that they’re only novellas and now I have to wait for the next one.

  10. I just whipped through the first two books of Kelley Armstrong’s Rockton series. They are kind of dark, but I was hooked. The plot revolves around a hidden town in the Yukon wilderness where people go to hide. When police detective Casey Butler needs a place to hide, she ends up policing a town made up of victims and criminals – but which are which? The first book managed to really surprise me – twice – and that doesn’t happen often. I usually have it all wrapped up in my head

    1. Those are good. In fact, I love pretty much all Armstrong’s stuff. Have you read her urban fantasy?

  11. I just finished Skink by Carl Hiaasen. He’s one of my comfort reads – especially in January when I’ve got the beach on my mind.

    1. I love My Brother Michael! I’m in the very slow process of moving my stuff a bit at a time to a new state, but that was one of the books I brought back with me this time.

  12. I’ve just finished ‘The Wall’ by Marlen Haushofer. Written in 1963. Apparently there’s a movie, though I’d never heard of either the movie or the book. Woman wakes up to discover she’s the last human left alive. Nothing much happens, but it is completely engrossing and beautiful.

  13. I’m reading Mr. Fox by Helen Oyeyemi. I am a quarter of the way through and still don’t know if I like it, but want to find out.

  14. I must confess I didn’t read anything this past week (well, I reread Snuff, because Sam Vimes) because I was watching The Punisher. It was intense, but a million times better than the last two messes in that group of shows.

  15. These days if it’s a book it’s a comfort read. I had a clutch of a half-dozen Regency Romance authors I trusted, but, alas, no more. Darn that Jennifer Crusie: “Sometimes I think writing destroys the ability to read widely,” or, evidently, *reading* Jennifer Crusie on writing destroys the ability to read widely. I now can spot info dump aborning and description-by-mirror brings on book heave. A run-on scene? Get it outta here. My Regency reads have winnowed to one reliable, Loretta Chase. Thank the goddess for her new “The Duke in Shining Armor,” which saw me through a head- cold-aftermath in which I coughed so hard I burst a blood vessel in my eye. Ever stalwart, I read on.

    In a well-rounded world, two charming characters use intelligence and wit to disentangle from complication and entangle into true love. A fulfilling read by Loretta Chase, an author who knows how to write.

    1. She’s good, isn’t she. I’m reading ‘A Duke in Shining Armour’ at the moment. Have you tried Joanna Bourne? She ticks all the ‘intelligent’ and ‘good writing’ boxes for me. I also LOVE ‘Untamed’ by Anna Cowan. It’s her only novel so far, unfortunately.

    2. The one thing I’ve discovered is that if a book is truly fantastic, I lose the internal editor. Pratchett keeps doing dumb prologues and I still love most Pratchett. And a lot of writers just do it right. Josephine Tey is so solid, she’s a pleasure to read even decades after she published.

      I just checked out the sample on Kelley Armstrong’s first book in that town of people in hiding series. It’s first person and you can get away with a lot of discursion in first, but she keeps it coming and she’s great at invoking outrage, so I spent $10.

      1. Kelley Armstrong is great. This will be good timing if you decide you like the Rockton books because the third one comes out soon. This reminds me I want to re-read the first two before that happens. That will have to wait until I’m more recovered from the hideous attack of bronchitis.

        1. I liked the first two a lot, although that second one was dark.
          The first one is more compelling because it’s the protagonist in a dangerous situation navigating a hostile environment, linked to a good mystery. The second one is still good, but the protagonist is safe in an environment that values her with a strong, committed love interest by her side, so a lot of tension is gone, which may be why she went so dark with the mystery. That’s the problem with series. The first book is the most important thing that’s ever happened to the protagonist. The second book is the second most important . . .

          1. The town was less threatening the second time around. The next one seems to be about them having to mind a suspected (?) killer that gets dumped on them by the town’s shady owners. It’s hazy in my mind. Partly because of illness and partly because I read the cover copy a long time ago. Anyway, I hope she explores Rockton’s sketchy investors as she continues. There seems to be a lot of potential for antagonism there. The various settlements and survivalist types in the forest interest me as well, so I’m happy to keep reading the series for the time being; I’m still curious. I also trust this author to know when it’s time to end something, so I’m not worried about it going on too long and having to abandon it.

          2. Yeah, she’s got a lot of ends to pull on there. I like Jacob a lot, and I’d like to see more of him; I like the idea of the settlers and the Rockport people connecting, I’m curious about Jen, the former best friend is a powder keg, and the Powers That Be are definitely evil, even if so far they’re just one-percenters. But every book has an ending, she’s not leaving loose ends to tease the next one. The first pages of the third one are at the back of the second one on my Kindle, but it’s coming out in a week, so I’ll just wait and read it all then. Good books.

  16. I just finished A Test of Wills by Charles Todd. It’s the first Inspector Ian Rutledge mystery and takes place shortly after WWI. Rutledge is a returned soldier with shell shock. I stayed up till 2 a.m. reading it-really, really didn’t want to put it down.

    1. I just read the Amazon sample. I stopped before I finished it and just bought the book. That is some seriously good, spare writing.

    2. Isn’t Charles Todd a mother/son writing team? Love that series. Waaaay down the road, it turns out, ghosts fade. Also try the Joe Sandilands series by Barbara Cleverly. Set in the same era, returned soldier (although Blue Rose, I believe, is Egypt before the war) who is now Scotland Yard. A more robust temperament, to my reading eyes.

      1. I have read all the Joe Sandiland series and found them to be very engrossing and wonderful. The clash of 2 cultures is written so well. Thought processes and motives vary so much from country to country.

    3. Todd’s female tec being compared to the standard for excellence set by Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs: Virginia Woolf would love that!
      My daughter just asked for some romance recs, not evident in the current market, for her mom’s group. I found myself ticking off my late 20C stick-with-you series writers, nursing & laundry sustenance: Devereaux, SEPhillips, Beverley, Kinsale, Medieros, Garwood, Kleypas, you know the rest. Surprised me. I inserted JCrusie at the top, labelled “in a category of her own.” So outside the box, I was reminded at last by the remembered sound of myself bursting into laughter & shattering a dissertation doldrums day. Uncommon. Thank you, Masked Woman. Do not ride off into the sunset….

  17. Thanks to the person here (Cassandra maybe?) who recommended the sci fi novel Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance a few months ago as a comfort read, I got hooked on the Vorkosigan series by Lois Bujold. I’ve been moving through them like a zigzag crazy quilt, starting in the middle, and then touching down at various random points in the overall story.

    Some are no longer that available, but there are a bunch of paperback collections that print a group of novels/novellas etc. One of those turned out to have an afterword by the author that specifically recommended that approach as a fun way to experience an otherwise chronological series, which made me happy.

    And when I enjoy a group of major characters, there’s no better way to achieve depth and breadth than to read a bunch of books about them — it’s like developing a new family that makes you feel happy and warm and comfortable, in spite of the occasional stun gun or spaceship tragedy here and there.

    Good Book Thursday scores again. 🙂

    1. The Vorkosigan books are high on my reread list. Have you read the two Cordelia novels about Miles’ mother?

      Bujold’s other books are also well worth a read. Fantasy rather than space opera, but just as good.

      1. Thanks for the ebook suggestion, but I am a crone who is addicted to paper, I fear.

        And I did read the Cordelia books — it has made me a little sorry that she seems to be an eminence grise through most of the other books — influential but not that engaged in the plots. I will check out the fantasy books once my current addiction is sated — I imagine good things in advance.

        Is anyone else saddened at the loss of Ursula Le Guin?

        1. Very. She was the most beautiful writer, and evidently an equally beautiful person. I’m glad she made it to 88, though. That’s a long life, well lived.
          Which means to me that we don’t mourn because she’s gone, we celebrate because she was here.

          1. Yes, this, exactly. I’m not sad about Ursula L., except in a general kind of way. Just so glad we had her. She lives on in all those whose words she touched. That’s a lot of living on.

        2. Cordelia comes back into her own in most unexpected ways in Bujold’s latest book, Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen. Some people didn’t like what it revealed about Aral, but I loved it.

          Yes, hugely saddened by the death of Le Guin. She has been such a great influence in so many ways.

        3. Yes, I’m sad to have Ursula Le Guin gone. There was a good essay about her in the New York Times:


          And I loved this quote:

          “We don’t know what we’re looking for when we pick up a book, no matter how clear-cut the genre,” she said. “We think we do, but we don’t. Don’t ever give people the thing they expect just because they expect it. Our job is to surprise them, to shake them — to turn their expectations on their heads.”

        4. I was going to suggest the Vorkosigan series ebooks — really cool covers, too! But if you prefer paper, you might look and see if they have what you want in the omnibus versions by Baen. I think “Miles in Love” is actually Komarr, A Civil Campaign and maybe the short story, Winterfair Gifts. Heavy bugger. But to tell the truth, if I read Komarr, I always read A Civil Campaign. Same with Cordelia’s story in Shards of Honor and Barrayar — in fact, I first bought it in the omnibus, “Cordelia’s Honor”. It’s handy.

          1. Also for paper there’s Alibris (if it’s no longer in print, as I won’t buy second hand if it will deprive authors of royalties.)

      2. I’m enjoying the Vorkosigan Saga Re-Read at Tor.com. A chapter or 3 a week, with commentary I sometimes love and sometimes skip over. They’re doing “Komarr “now. How might the Auditorial investigation have gone if Miles weren’t there? Hmm…

      3. I want to strongly second the recommendation for Bujold’s fantasy writings in the Chalion series. The first is the “Curse of Chalion” and it is a lovely read. The one in the series that knocks me out is “Paladin of Souls” about the journey of a woman in mid-life who goes on a pilgrimage to find herself. Absolutely stellar book.

        1. For a long period of time Curse of Chalion was my comfort read and then Paladin of Souls came out and instantly became my new comfort read. Awesome book.

          Must go re-read for about the 50th time…

        2. ‘Paladin’ is steeped in Chaucer’s ‘Canterbury Tales’ peripatetic framework, adding a “post curse” (menopausal?) dowager queen host with a quest & moral hurdles. A ‘how-to’ self-help for sainthood. Phenom!

    2. I’m so happy you’re enjoying the Vorkosigan books! They are top notch. I think the way you are dipping in and out of the series is a perfectly valid way to approach them, but I’d suggest that at some point you sit down and read them in internal chronological order. There is a richness to the character interactions that builds over the course of the series, so that by the time you get to Captain Vorpatrils Alliance you know what “Ivan, you idiot!” really means. Oh, and Memory will break your heart.

      A Civil Campaign is very reminiscent of Cotillion and as a woman moving into the later stages of her life, I adored Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen. I’m envious you get to read these for the first time all the way through!

  18. I’ve got nothing. I just looked back through my book list from the beginning of December until now, and everything I’ve read has been mentioned here. Some of them I was reading before the mention, because: author, and some things are by the author of the mention (I’m becoming a Kristan Higgins completist, it seems) but the only things I’ve read since Thanksgiving that aren’t connected here are two pieces of non-fiction (Kentucky Heirloom Seeds, and A desolate place for a defiant people: the archaeology of maroons, indigenous Americans, and enslaved laborers in the Great Dismal Swamp.)

    You are all ruining me; I don’t have time for re-reads!

  19. Enchanted Glass or Howls Moving Castle are my comfort reads. The audio versions are excellent. I don’t understand why Dianna Wynne Jones isn’t more well known in the United States.

    1. When I was studying abroad my friend and I did a lot of bookswapping, and I remember reading Howls Moving Castle on a bus in the Scottish highlands, and I have never had a landscape go more perfectly with a book. It is a really great comfort read.

  20. Re-listening to some of the later “Cast in” books by Michelle Sagara in preparation for Cast in Deception and enjoying them much more on the relisten!

  21. I just finished “Dragon Blood,” Eileen Wilk’s latest World of the Lupi novel. Another great read in the series. One of those books that entertains (a new realm! crazy magical supermen!! Lily loses her weapon!!!) and also encourages contemplation on serious stuff that resonates with current events. Bonus: We gain more insights into Grandmother’s wonderful complexity. My one quibble was a Big Surprise that I thought was clear from the last book. Plenty of other satisfying surprises. I got the book on the release date earlier this month but wasn’t ready to take the plunge till this week. Thank goodness I had the day off work so the binge reading ended at a reasonable hour for a change. The cliffhanger in its predecessor irked me; this volume finishes the arc (Connie Willis’ Blackout/All Clear comes to mind).

  22. I’m reading a book about improv, hoping it’ll give me something useful for my fiction, and also for my school classes. Not much is sticking; I think I’ve heard a lot of the advice before, and also, my concentration is scattered.

    I just found Christopher Moore’s *Lamb* while I was cleaning, and I can’t remember if I read it or not. I love Christopher Moore, though, so I think that’s the book I’ll take while I’m out and about this weekend.

    I need some good reading about Parsi immigrants in New York during the Gilded Age (preferably non-fiction, biographies or diaries). Google is great, but I want something I can hold and maybe put on a shelf. I have found an interesting case — Bhicaji Framji Balsara, who was the first Indian to become a naturalized U.S. citizen. Apparently, the judge naturalized him so it would serve as a test case and prevent future non-whites from becoming U.S. citizens. But the courts said that Parsees are white Aryans . . . . At least for awhile. I had no idea that naturalization was so fraught. (I should have guessed. And, duh, it’s still fraught, isn’t it?)

    I may be reading more online stuff than real books for the next few weeks.

    1. I forgot about Aryan coming from the area of India. Weren’t they wise men or something? (I’m sure I’m wrong.)

      We’re trying to decide on our wills, and I’ve been fighting to have my daughter-in-law be a beneficiary of our son’s trust if we die then he dies. The men (my husband and the lawyer) are against it. One major purpose of a trust is to keep money away from a spouse in case of divorce.

      I told them of an article I proofread while working at a university press. It illustrated the British perception that people from India were barbarian because their widows immolated themselves on the funeral pyres of their husbands.

      Fine, but at that time the starvation rate for widows in England was very high. The situation was unnoticed by the public at large, but could be seen as equally barbarian.

      Anyway, I negotiated that part of our wills to fit my preference. Also, we’ve finished up a mess of stuff and I can finally go back to reading. While things were up in the air, I tried reading things I own but never picked up.

      So, question: I tried Anvil of the World by Kage Baker. I put it down after the first novella. Should I have kept plowing through? Looking at Jenny’s criteria above, it just didn’t grab me.

  23. I read A Distant Heart by Sonali Dev. I’ve loved all her books, but until this one I could only re-read her first book, A Bollywood Affair, just because the other two dealt with so much heartbreak. On the surface, this should have been another heartbreaker – one of the core questions is how does a loved one’s death change people, and what lines would someone cross to keep their child from dying. Plus there’s a backdrop that includes corruption, poverty, sexual assault, etc. But the heroine is so incredibly determined to live, and she and the hero are such incredibly good friends who obviously love each other so much, even when they’re fighting, that I know I’ll be going back to it over and over. The heroine has lived her entire life incredibly isolated from the world because of an immune deficiency problem – Repunzel is a recurring metaphor – and now that she’s gotten her cure, she’s living her life and it’s GREAT. Also the whole thing takes place in Mumbai, and they have to defeat a black market organ smuggling ring, like you do.

    You could read it as a stand alone, although the pacing might not feel as smooth in places if you haven’t read “A Change of Heart”already.

    I’ve also read the first two novellas in Hamilton’s Battalion – Rose Lerner’s “Promised Land” features a Jewish woman pretending to be a man so she can fight in the Revolutionary War. Then she runs into her loyalist ex, right before the Battle of Yorktown, and feelings unsue. It all takes place during a siege, as they realize they’ve both changed, which makes them re-think what there relationship was, and then, against their best instincts, start thinking about what it could be again. I remember loving the whole woman pretending to be a man to fight trope as a kid. This novella makes me remember what I liked about that trope – her strength and freedom – plus Lerner does cool things with Judaism, feminism, idealism, and the Revolutionary War, exploring both where they intersect, and where they’ve fallen short for the characters. Courtney Milan does her usual good work in “The Pursuit of…”, about an eccentric British deserter who can’t. stop. talking and the black American soldier he falls in love with. It opens with a battle scene where they’re trying to kill each other and the British guy asks, “So, read anything good recently?” and pretty much continues in that vein. And there’s a lot about that fine line between a lying, hoping, willing something to change, or deluding yourself when it can’t. I’ll report back on Alyssa Cole’s That Could Be Enough, the last of the three novellas, although I’m primed to like it because of the title.

  24. Re-reading Cousin Kate (by Georgette Heyer).

    Just finished reading Etched in Bone by Anne Bishop. She overuses certain phrases, and works certain things a little too hard, but I keep coming back for more of hers, because her worlds and characters and ideas are fascinating and rather addictive.

  25. Caroline Stevermer was a Thursday good book recommendation. Thank you. I read them both this week and liked them a lot.

    But I am not sure about Thursday Good Books posting. Suddenly I am finding a lot of books to read and three times this last week I stayed up past 1:30 reading. This is playing hell with my schedule.

    1. Yes! I have a list a mile long at the library, stacks of books teetering all over my house that I am frantically reading well into the night. Love books I can’t put down, but that inevitably leads to the next one in the series and so on… It’s a lovely and terrible problem all in one. As an aside this weekend a local community center is having their annual book sale. My too read, stacks will not be decreasing anytime soon at this rate.

      1. On the other hand, I have discovered books that I will love for a long time to come, and what strikes me is that I’ve saved SO MUCH TIME that I otherwise might have wasted clicking on the “look inside!” buttons on Amazon or paging through random books at a library, looking for a book that I actually wanted to take home. Not everyone’s favorite book turned out to be right for me, but the ones that did have proven to be very very right, for which I’m most grateful.

    2. Hooray! She wrote a third book called When The King Comes Home that is very hard to find. I loved it, there is a lot of ambiguity about what is going on, and who to believe, and some understated magic. I need to find it again, pieces of it have been haunting me!

  26. I’ve returned to the public library to again check out Churchill and Orwell: the Fight for Freedom. I don’t read a lot of non-fiction, and checked out it out the first time out of curiosity. An order request had come in for this title at the university library where I work. This book now haunts me, popping up in my mind at odd moments. The two men had similar odd events happen to them, and lived in tempestuous times that echo the present one. And most of all, both of these men knew that words mattered, and were driven to write/speak their thoughts. I have drifted away from my own writing with the usual excuses: no time, no energy, and lately, no talent. I feel their shades pushing me to reclaim my voice. I’m scribbling in my notebooks again. This mouse may not roar, but I’ll squeak with the best of them.

  27. I have been enjoying Lois McMaster Bujold’s series of novellas about Penric, who is inhabited by a chaos demon.

    Joanna Bourne writes amazingly lyrical language about spy’s and she is the only other author whose blogs about writing fascinate me, a non author.

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